A strategy for the protection, preservation, and restoration of national forest giant sequoia groves is being formulated using a conceptual framework for ecosystem management recently developed by Region Five of the USDA Forest Service. The framework includes physical, biological, and social dimensions. The array of ecosystem elements and their associated environmental indicators within each of these dimensions is almost endless. Key ecosystem elements, environmental indicators, and reference variability are discussed in this paper. These key elements and associated indicators are thought to be adequate to define and control management activities designed to protect, preserve, and restore national forest giant sequoia groves for the benefit of present and future generations. The key ecosystem elements selected for practical application are: 1) attitudes, beliefs, and values; 2) economics and subsistence; 3) stream channel morphology; 4) sediment; 5) water; 6) fire; 7) organic debris; and 8) vegetation mosaic. Recommendations are made for the attributes of environmental indicators that characterize these elements.